Apple Backing Up Call History On iCloud, Privacy Concerns? Or Non-Issue?

A Russian digital forensics company has raised concerns over Apple’s iCloud feature that syncs users call history to the cloud. While Apple has been a strong advocate of user privacy and is known to take data from users only with their explicit consent, it seems just by having iCloud enabled on your iOS device, entire call log gets backed up online.

Using this as an example, questions are being raised if the data is shared with law enforcement agencies? The data sent includes, phone number, data / time of call and duration. This feature seems to be enabled since iOS 8.2 (released early 2015) and with iOS 10 this call log also includes Skype and other third party apps whose status is integrated using a new API called Call ID. The Russian firm Elcomsoft claims that this data is saved for 4 months on Apple servers, much higher than what even telecom companies themselves keep.

Apple Security

While we can cook up enough conspiracy theories and talk about how Apple secretly takes your data for sharing with law enforcement agencies, one of the things I have appreciated on iOS is that my call log gets backed up and synced across any time I restore my device. Apparently Apple’s reply is also in lines of ‘its a feature not a bug :)’.

“We offer call history syncing as a convenience to our customers so that they can return calls from any of their devices,” an Apple spokesperson said in an email.

While the other issues that frustrates users is all their iOS synced devices buzzing together when a call comes is fair criticism, the privacy related conspiracy theories are a matter of belief. I won’t be surprised if Apple brings a opt-in functionality for this feature in future iOS releases adding to the already dense & complicated list of iOS settings.

Law enforcement agencies would of course get data by going to carriers and even if Apple shares data available with them in case of a valid investigation that is underway, I personally don’t see that as an issue. In the San Bernardino shooting case what Apple objected too is building backdoors into its own OS and giving the government a key. They were open to share details that they have with them with the government to co-operate in the investigation.

Privacy in such issues would be a matter of debate and given that President-elect of the United States, Donald Trump had opined against Apple in the feud with FBI, matters may not be very smooth for technology companies on encryption and user security.